Thursday, November 10, 2005


In early April, the Virginian coastal waters are still so cold that just dunking your toes in will trigger a goosebump stampede all the way up to your scalp. I don’t know why this hadn’t occurred to me and I was expecting the waters to be warm. Could be I was just so happy to be at the shore again, for the first time in seven years.

I was a senior in college, and on my first unchaperoned vacation with some good friends. We weren’t the typical spring break binge drinking, “girls gone wild” types, and were simply out to relax in a new place and decompress in the midst of the spring crunch and angst of devising plans for post-college life. When I look back, many vignetted memories flash through my mind – wandering through the vendor booths on the strip, visiting the oceanic museum and aquarium, one of the girls having an allergic reaction because there was apparently chicken meat in a hot dog she ate, watching the fighter jets fly over, hitting the crazy beach clubs (okay, so we partied a little bit). But what I remember most are the soul-quenching, communal evenings of … nothing.

One friend’s parents owned a beach house there. It was a small weathered beach house in a crowded cluster of similar beach houses. We spent most of our evenings out back of that house, and at that point where warm town air collided with cool ocean breeze we’d build big raging bonfires in the sand. There we would sit. Drink a few beers. Share stories, jokes, memories. Ponder our futures. And stare at the bright dancing flames and the dark endless sea.

In those days, music accompanied every move. The soundtrack of our lives at that particular point was a strangely ethereal recording by a group named Enigma. The album was called MCMXC a.D. (The Roman numerals for the year 1990), and was a sultry tapestry of chimes, keyboards, haunting woodwinds and sparse breathy vocals layered over soft brushstrokes of percussion and electric guitar. We played it over and over on our trip, particularly at our bonfires. Being that we were virtually alone in our section of the beach, we’d turn up the stereo as loud as it would go, allowing the sensual music to bounce off the empty houses, skip across the surface of the rolling waves, penetrate our souls and take residence therein. It was a perfectly perfect accompaniment to our atmosphere.

There was a cut from that recording that got a lot of radio play, called “Sadeness”. Occasionally I’ll still hear it on the radio and will immediately be transported back to those evenings. I’ll practically be able to smell the sweet salty air of the ocean. Feel the warm caress of the fire on my face, the rolled bandana around my head that always held my unruly hair at bay, the rough driftwood trunk we sat upon, and the coarse sand that I never could get back out of my shoes. The taste of Mickey’s Malt Liquor is almost detectable as I once again envision the spooky glow of our light darting around in the foam of crashing waves.

I never see a single person I went on that trip with anymore. Except when I hear that old song again. Then we’re immediately together once more for a few brief moments, symbolically standing together on our tiptoes at the edge of the springboard, serenaded by music and surf under a moonless sky dotted with stars.

I love that about music. Instant time travel.

6 comments: said...

I haven't heard "Sadness" in quite a while. I tend to think of it as a somewhat intense song.

Bougie Black Boy said...

You're poetry is good, as I commented below. So is your prose, as seen here. The images you create here, I'd love to see in a poem as well.

Michelle said...

Very descriptive and amazing post friend. I can picture the beach and surroundings as you have portrayed it so well. I agree with Stephen, I'd like to see some poetry too.

Michael Lehet said...

I love Enigma.

It's great when you hear a song and it reminds you of someone.

Lori said...

The song really does remember when. There are so many times I've heard a song from my past that takes me right back to the moment...and everything, for those few minutes, is exactly as it was then.

I can see this all so vividly. Beautiful writing, clew!

Cheryl said...

Music is a time machine, isn't it? Scent can be, too. Loved this piece, and love your writing. I'm so glad you're back.